NFL Playoffs 2018: TV Schedule, Early Odds and Predictions for Divisional Round

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2018

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to pass during the second half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Back in September, the road to Super Bowl LII began with 32 NFL teams. Now, after this past weekend's wild-card round, only eight teams remain in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy. 

In the AFC, there's already been an upset as the Tennessee Titans marched into Arrowhead Stadium and took down the Kansas City Chiefs on their home turf. They'll face a stiffer test against the New England Patriots in cold weather in Foxborough, Massachusetts, but it's hard to doubt the likes of Marcus Mariota after the performance he gave against the Chiefs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers play host the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, looking to avenge their loss to Jacksonville earlier this season in which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five (yes, five) interceptions in a 30-9 blowout loss.

As for the NFC, there are some really good teams that won't even sniff a conference title game. The Philadelphia Eagles will take on a surging Atlanta Falcons team that silenced the league's best-scoring offense in the Los Angeles Rams this past weekend. The Eagles are more than capable of winning this game, even without Carson Wentz in the fold, but will have to play mistake-free football to do so.

A bit further up North will see the Minnesota Vikings host the New Orleans Saints in another rematch from the regular season. The Vikings got the better of the Saints the first time around in a 29-19 victory in Week 1, but the Saints are a new team this time around.

Before getting into any official predictions, let's take a look at the rest of the playoff schedule:


Divisional Round

Saturday, January 13

NFC: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC, NBC Sports Live)

AFC: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS Sports Network) 

Sunday, January 14

AFC: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS Sports Network) 

NFC: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings, 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox, Fox Sports Go)


Conference Championships

Sunday, January 21

AFC Championship Game, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS Sports Network)

NFC Championship Game, 6:40 p.m. ET (Fox, Fox Sports Go)


Super Bowl LII

Sunday, February 4

AFC champion vs. NFC champion at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC, NBC Sports Live)



Falcons soar past Eagles

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons throws a pass during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Falcons put the rest of the NFL on notice by upsetting the Rams in Los Angeles, 26-13.

Not only was it impressive that the Falcons offense was able to put up 26 points on the road—the first time Atlanta has scored more than 24 points since Week 12—but their defense stepped up in a big way to hold Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to just 13 points.

The Rams made some mistakes and recklessly turned over the ball, but the Falcons took advantage of a young, inexperienced team making mistakes. Going up against the Eagles, the Falcons defense will look to carry its momentum against an Eagles offense with Nick Foles under center, who looked less than stellar against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

Foles has proved that he can step in and win a game for his team in the regular season, but he hasn't had much success in a small sample size in the postseason.

He's only played in a playoff game back in 2013 and lost, throwing for 195 yards with two touchdowns. But for the Eagles to win, they'll have to rely on Foles to get the job done; otherwise Matt Ryan and his Falcons offense will have time to work out the kinks in their offense before heading into the NFC Championship Game with an easy win.

Prediction: Foles falls apart down the stretch as the Falcons defeat the Eagles, 27-17. 


Saints march through Minnesota

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hands the ball of to Mark Ingram #22 of the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Even though the Vikings are the No. 2 seed in the NFC and clinched a bye week through the divisional round, they still don't get the love they deserve as one of the league's best teams. 

But with the Vikings taking on the Saints in the playoffs at home, and I'm going with the Saints. 

This pick doesn't have to do much with the Vikings, as they haven't done anything wrong over the course of the season to cast any doubts as their status as a Super Bowl contender, but the Saints proved in the wild-card round against the Carolina Panthers that they can win football games without Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram having ridiculous games.

The Vikings dismantled the Saints back in Week 1 with relative ease, but this Saints team transformed itself into one of the fiercest run-first teams in the league shortly afterward. Although Kamara and Ingram combined for just 45 rushing yards and a score against the Panthers this past weekend, they've been the most consistent source of offense for the Saints this season.

But even if the Saints can't get their running game going again, there seems to be a renewed sense of confidence that Drew Brees can still sling the ball against any defense, as seen against Carolina where he threw for 376 yards on 23-of-33 passing.

New Orleans was embarrassed back in Week 1, but it will make amends this week in Minnesota in a hard-fought, tightly contested matchup between two of the NFC's premier teams.

Prediction: The Vikings battle hard, but the Saints edge out the 26-24 victory. 


Patriots silence critics against Titans

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31:  Steve McLendon #99 of the New York Jets sacks Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Forget about that ESPN story regarding dysfunction in New England: The Patriots are still the Patriots and it's playoff time.

This team will go up against the Titans with no distractions and look to take down a team that barely beat the Chiefs in the wild-card round.

No disrespect to Titans fans, but Tennessee's offense was really bad at times against Kansas City.

Mariota might have saved the day with a key block on a Derrick Henry first-down run to put the game on ice, along with his two throwing touchdowns (one to himself) but he can't continue to do it all for a struggling offense that has no answers once it gets behind on downs.

The Titans defense surrendered 21 first-half points to the Chiefs before shutting down Alex Smith and the passing game, but they won't be able to do that two weeks in a row against Tom Brady and a well-rested offense for four quarters.

The Cinderella story ends here for Mariota and his Titans. Although their postseason run ends in New England, they can still hold their heads high and celebrate a playoff victory this season. 

Prediction: The Patriots remind the league why they're the best team in the NFL with a comfortable 35-14 victory over the Titans. 


Steelers get revenge against Jaguars

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 25: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off the field during a timeout in the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 25, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Back in Week 5, the Jaguars became one of the league's darkhorse contenders after taking apart Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense. The Steelers were held to nine points, while the Jags picked off Roethlisberger five times in Pittsburgh. 

But this time around, Roethlisberger is playing like his old self, not like how he was in the first half of the season, and won't make those type of mistakes again. 

The Jaguars were able to claw out a win over the Buffalo Bills in the wild card by a score of 10-3 in an otherwise boring game. Even with the win, there isn't a lot of optimism surrounding the Jaguars going into the divisional round against the AFC's most well-rounded offense in the Steelers.

Star wideout Antonio Brown appears ready to get back in action this week after missing the last couple of regular-season games due to injury, and if Le'Veon Bell can stay healthy in the playoffs, the Steelers might be the team to dethrone the Patriots as the top dog in the AFC.

But first things first, and that's a battle with the Jaguars.

The Jaguars will look to lean on their running game with Leonard Fournette, who torched the Steelers earlier this season with two touchdowns and 181 rushing yards. But soon, the Jaguars will be forced to put the ball in the hands of Blake Bortles once they get behind on the scoreboard, and it won't be pretty.

Look for Bortles to be a turnover machine this time around while Roethlisberger guides the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game for a date with the Patriots.

Prediction: The Steelers take care of business against the Jaguars, 28-13. 


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